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Bio Roundup: Spinraza Woes, Science March, Baseline Launch & More

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 08:15

Rumblings of a new Obamacare replacement surfaced this week, while scientists and their supporters prepared for Saturday’s—a.k.a. Earth Day’s—nationwide Marches for Science.

Our own reporting focused this week on the fallout from high drug prices, with a look at the frustration of families whose children have had trouble gaining access to the first drug ever approved for the rare spinal muscular atrophy.

Elsewhere, Google’s cousin Verily finally launched a much ballyhooed health study, Novartis grabbed more momentum in the race toward the first CAR-T cell therapy approval, and a lot more news happened around the Xconomy network, with reports from... Read more »

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Request Your Invitation to Xconomy’s Elite Napa Summit June 8-9

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 01:23


Nobel Laureate David Baltimore. Microbiome AND supercomputer pioneer Larry Smarr. Intellectual Ventures’ Nathan Myhrvold. Nicole Glaros of Techstars.

These are just a few of the visionary speakers who will be headlining Xconomy’s sixth annual Napa Summit. And if you act fast to request your invitation to this special event, you can join them and an elite group of other innovators, investors, serial entrepreneurs, and technologists for this unique, conversational conference in the heart of California’s wine country.

Our most exclusive conference, formally called The Napa Summit: The Xconomy Retreat on Technology, Jobs, and Growth, is limited to no more than... Read more »

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Phoenix Shops Its Cancer Drug as Potential Alzheimer’s Treatment

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 08:00

San Antonio — George Perry, a scientist at the University of Texas at San Antonio, has long proposed that drug developers and researchers need to look earlier into the roots of Alzheimer’s disease.

Over more than two decades, Perry has studied the possibility that diseases like Alzheimer’s may get their start because the body produces too many variants of oxygen, called free radicals, which cause cell damage, and not enough antioxidants to limit the damage. The process, called oxidative stress, has been associated with aging and neurodegeneration.

A potential discovery that targets the early development of the disease—in... Read more »

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“Our Son’s Fate”: Parents Fighting for Kids’ Spine Drug Eye New Data

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 07:53

Melissa Marotta pulled no punches to get her three-year-old son C.J., who has the genetic disease spinal muscular atrophy, access to nusinersen (Spinraza), the first approved drug for his condition. For months, she couldn’t schedule a treatment date at Columbia University Medical Center/New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, and for much of that time, she didn’t know why.

She wrote every day to the hospital board until a breakthrough came. C.J. (pictured) received his first dose in early April.

“I reminded them that our son’s fate was in their hands and that I held them fully responsible for the decline in... Read more »

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Trump Executive Order Adds Uncertainty to Tech Visa Program

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 20:00

Is the U.S. high-skilled visa program, known as H-1B, an essential contributor to the innovation economy or a way for companies to replace American IT workers with immigrants at lower salaries?

It’s a debate as old as the program itself, which began in 1990. The Trump administration on Tuesday joined the fray with a long-anticipated executive order that provides little insight into how the H-1B visa program would be reformed, or when.

Speaking Tuesday at Snap-on tools in Kenosha, WI, in front of an American flag made of wrenches, President Trump stuck to the “America first” message that was a hallmark... Read more »

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The Xconomy Roadmap: Top 15 Innovation Areas to Watch (and Disrupt)

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 10:02
View the Slideshow

It is a time of great transitions in the technology and business world. Key advances in areas like machine intelligence, agriculture, and healthcare seem poised to transform society—and everyday life.

But it can be hard to keep up with the latest news in fields as disparate as cybersecurity, food tech, and cancer therapeutics—let alone understand the context around these developments and how they might relate to each other. At the same time, government policy issues ranging from drug pricing to education to immigration have never been more urgently tied to business concerns.

To help our readers sort through an increasingly complex... Read more »

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Want to Communicate Your Science? First, Step Back

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 06:55

Think for a moment about the words and phrases that life science researchers and executives use on a daily basis. I’m talking about the seemingly simple phrases like “investigational drug,” “novel target,” “immunotherapy,” “clinical trial,” “in vitro,” and “therapeutic window.” There are hundreds more.

Those of us who work in life sciences are comfortable with phrases like these in our daily lives. We use them in our meetings, read them in our favorite industry publications, and put them in our scientific presentations and press releases.

To us, each phrase holds a specific meaning and value that’s backed up by years of... Read more »

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Approved Opens for Business with $1M and Digital Mortgage Platform

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 01:35

Following a six-month trial of its digital mortgage platform, San Diego-based Approved has officially launched its Web-based software for home loan applications. In a recent statement, the 20-month-old startup also said it has raised $1 million in what co-founder and CEO Andy Taylor calls a “pre-seed round.”

“Our goal is to create a platform [for both lenders and borrowers] that is just as frictionless as possible,” Taylor said at the downtown EvoNexus incubator, where he has been working with co-founder Navtej Sadhal.

Sadhal and Taylor (pictured above) founded Approved in August 2015, and moved into the San Diego tech incubator... Read more »

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TakeLessons CEO Discusses Chromatik Buyout, Why it’s a Good Fit

Mon, 04/17/2017 - 09:54

San Diego-based TakeLessons set out nine years ago to create a Web-based platform that helped match music students with qualified instructors.

Since then, TakeLessons has raised a total of $20 million in venture capital, and expanded into new markets and services. The company’s last VC round in early 2014 raised $7 million.  TakeLessons also acquired Chicago-based Betterfly, which offered online vocational classes, DIY projects, and self-improvement courses like public speaking and personal life coaching.

Now TakeLessons has completed another acquisition, buying Chromatik, a Santa Monica, CA-based provider of digital sheet music. As TakeLessons CEO Steven Cox (above) said recently by phone,... Read more »

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Procrastinators’ Special! Save on 4/19 Human Impact of Innovation

Mon, 04/17/2017 - 07:29

Join Xconomy this Wednesday, April 19, at our “Forum on the Human Impact of Innovation.” We’re hosting an afternoon of insightful presentations and candid chats about some innovations that are making the biggest impact on human lives. Don’t wait to register—our “Procrastinator’s Special” ends today, and it’s your last chance to save on tickets.

We are bringing experts to the stage in everything from self-driving cars to precision medicine and scientific wellness—and machine learning is a recurring theme in many of the presentations. Our program includes leading innovators, startup founders, investors, scientists, and CEOs from San... Read more »

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Why Bots Aren’t the Real AI Disruption: The Quiet Rise of Headless AI

Fri, 04/14/2017 - 13:13

Editor’s note: This piece was originally posted on Textio’s company blog.

“Hey Siri, how’s the weather today?”
“OK Google, remind me to pay the power bill.”
“Alexa, tell me a joke!”

Bots are eating the world. Whether you are an enterprising app developer building the essential software to bring a virtual Taylor Swift into your Slack chats, or just lonely and in need of a dumb, annoying virtual friend to message you on Facebook, we seem to be clear on one thing: many experiences, apps, sites, and products are breathlessly going to be replaced with bots.

(Unless... Read more »

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Bio Roundup: CRISPR Appeal, Bristol Deals, Stock Pumping & More

Fri, 04/14/2017 - 07:00

It may have been a short holiday week, but there was plenty of news on the CRISPR front. In the ongoing battle for rights to the landmark gene editing technology, the faction led by the University of California appealed the U.S. decision in favor of the Broad Institute.

Elsewhere, Bristol-Myers Squibb flipped assets, a top dealmaker made an unexpected tack into the perilous waters of Alzheimer’s drug development, and the SEC cracked down on stock pumping schemes. Let’s round it all up.


—The influential US Preventive Services Task Force slightly shifted its position on the... Read more »

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Tocagen IPO Raises $85M to Test Gene Therapy in Brain Cancer Trials

Thu, 04/13/2017 - 14:45

Tocagen raised $85 million in its stock market debut today, and underwriters saw enough demand to increase the number of shares in the initial public offering. Tocagen has been developing a gene therapy treatment for a deadly type of brain cancer.

San Diego-based Tocagen (NASDAQ: TOCA) priced its offering of 8.5 million shares at $10 per share. The company had previously planned to sell 7.25 million shares priced between $10 to $12 each.

Tocagen revealed its IPO plans last month, saying it wanted to use the stock offering to finance clinical trials of its treatment for recurrent high-grade glioma,... Read more »

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The Human Impact of Machine Learning in Medical Diagnostics & More

Thu, 04/13/2017 - 02:40

In January, UC San Diego announced that a group of scientists had succeeded in training a computer to tell the difference between a person with a “healthy” intestine from someone with inflammatory bowel disease by analyzing the genetic makeup of the microbes in their gut.

Less than two weeks later, scientists at Stanford University said they also had created an artificial intelligence algorithm that could diagnose skin cancer as accurately as a panel of 21 board-certified dermatologists.

These recent advances suggest we are on the verge of some major innovations in the use of machine learning for medical diagnoses. Think what... Read more »

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Lymber, Founded in Early 2016, Surprised by Mindbody’s Buyout Offer

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 12:40

Lymber was barely a year old when Mindbody (NASDAQ: MB) announced recently that it acquired the San Diego mobile app developer. Lymber, named as a 2017 Xconomy San Diego startup to watch, has developed a technology platform that enables mobile users to book openings in fitness and wellness classes.

“We’re basically an Expedia for fitness and wellness studios,” Lymber co-founder and CEO Doug Hecht told me by telephone after the Mindbody deal closed.

Lymber aggregates data about the real-time availability of fitness and wellness classes for its users, with about half that data coming from Mindbody, Hecht explained. “Mindbody... Read more »

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Cirius Therapeutics Raises $40M to Expand Ongoing Liver Study

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 09:00

A $40 million transfusion led by Frazier Healthcare Partners and Denmark’s Novo A/S is bringing fresh life to a Michigan biotech working to advance a new experimental drug for treating a type of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

As part of the financing, Kalamazoo-based Octeta Therapeutics has been rechristened Cirius Therapeutics, and three San Diego-based biotech executives are stepping into key executive roles. All three were former Laguna Pharmaceuticals executives who spent the past 16 months scouting for Frazier as entrepreneurs-in-residence.

In a statement today, Cirius named Bob Baltera as CEO, Howard Dittrich as chief medical officer (who will be overseeing clinical... Read more »

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The Otonomy Story and the Human Impact of Innovation

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 01:00

[Editor’s note: Jay Lichter will discuss his personal odyssey in drug development on April 19 at The Xconomy Forum on the Human Impact of Innovation. Online registration is here.]

I am a pharmaceutical scientist and a biotech venture capitalist. I start companies that are focused on creating new drugs. So when my doctor told me I had Meniere’s disease, and that there are no FDA-approved products for treatment, my reaction was, “there has to be something better, and we are going to figure it out.”

Meniere’s is a peculiar disorder of the inner ear, characterized by vertigo, tinnitus, hearing loss,... Read more »

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San Diego Social Media Startup Soci Adds Austin Office, Raises $8.5M

Mon, 04/10/2017 - 08:40

Soci, a San Diego startup that created a Web platform for managing social media, has closed on $8.5 million in Series A financing that will be used to build on the company’s recent growth, including a second office in Austin, TX, according to co-founder and CEO Afif Khoury.

The five-year-old startup, which had 35 employees five months ago when it was named as a 2017 Xconomy San Diego company to watch, now has 50 employees.

Soci’s software-as-a-service provides a “central command” that enables business customers to deploy their social media marketing strategies, customize their brand messaging, and control their customer... Read more »

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Startups Share your Predictions for Free Admission to Human Impact of Innovation

Mon, 04/10/2017 - 08:22

We are a little over a week away from the Xconomy Forum on the Human Impact of Innovation and we’re excited to announce that thanks to a generous sponsor we have a block of 25 complimentary tickets to give to bootstrapped entrepreneurs in San Diego.

It all takes place at The Ilumina Theater at the Alexandria in San Diego on Wednesday, April 19. To get a complimentary ticket, we’re asking entrepreneurs to offer their predictions on what innovations have the greatest impact on human lives.

To reserve your free ticket, simply email with the following information:
—Name, title, company... Read more »

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Bio Roundup: Gottlieb Talks Vax, Acorda’s Axe, Adams, 23andMe & More

Fri, 04/07/2017 - 07:32

In the nation’s capital, healthcare and life sciences were on center stage. Or stages, actually. On Capitol Hill, FDA commissioner nominee Scott Gottlieb, the drug industry’s favorite pick, told senators his extensive industry ties wouldn’t cloud his judgment or create conflicts. At a downtown convention center, Joe Biden slammed the Trump administration’s budget-cutting plans. And despite the White House’s wooing of the far right, the revival of Trumpcare, a.k.a. The American Health Care Act, has not gained traction; Congress is likely to jet off for its two-week recess with no new bill, leaving the administration strutting and fretting yet another... Read more »

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